Guide to UTM Tags & Tracking Your Marketing
(Including Influencer Spend)

Last updated: December 21st, 2018.

UTM tags are an essential tool to help you categorize the traffic that comes to your website. You add the tags to your links that you use for all marketing purposes.

Analytics software providers can parse these UTM tags and show you the success of each link & tag you make.

OrderMetrics Auto Tagging

Looking for info on how OrderMetrics can auto-tag Facebook ads for you? Jump to the Facebook Autotagging section.

The main platforms that use these tags are Google Analytics & Facebook Ads. If you aren’t using these, some other analytics tools do also track UTM tags but they are less common. Most people use Google Analytics for this, in fact, Google Analytics bought Urchin - the company responsible for the 3 letter term (Urchin Tracking Module), which is why they are so ubiquitous.

The data from the utm tags shows up in Google Analytics in various places. It's also accessible in some other analytics platforms, as well as tools that connect to Google Analytics such as OrderMetrics.

UTM tags look like this
https://www.ordermetrics.com/?utm_source=TAG&utm_campaign=TAG&utm_medium=TAG

Technically you can put whatever the hell you want in any of the tags, if you are feeling crazy. The link will still work but it won't help with analytics. If you want it to make sense in Google Analytics (& other analytics apps), it’s best to follow certain conventions.

We’ll show you the main uses for each tag and then explain how to best use each one.

OrderMetrics itself can perform some automatic UTM tagging to allow us to better analyze your advertising profitability.

Why Should You Trust Us?

This was written by George Sylvain, co-founder of Social Print Studio, a successful e-commerce store that has been selling prints and profitable for 8 years.

Additional help was provided by Hank Kronick,founder of Order Metrics. In some cases we worked with researchers & outside experts to make sure we covered all angles.

The 5 Types of UTM Tag

utm_campaign - commonly used

Use this for campaign name - e.g. JanuarySale or VIPRetargeting. It’s okay if you make this one long and specific, and put more information in it so you don’t get confused between one campaign and another e.g. utm_campaign=january_sale_1-5-2019_retarget_loyal_customers

utm_source - mandatory for most reporting

Use this to show which service the referring traffic came from - google, facebook, or a newsletter. If this is from email newsletters, it’s good to include which list you used here e.g. loyal_customers or instagram_users (or however you have your email list segmented.)
This is mandatory, you must fill it out for the other tags to work.

utm_medium - commonly used

Often confused with source, this was designed for words like email, CPC, social that show the medium the user came through.

Source & Medium combined will show up as a Channel in Google Analytics - Google Analytics recommends following their guide to this tag in particular very carefully. Default channel definitions - Google Analytics Help. Make sure your tags are consistent or this won't work nicely.

These Channels show up in Google Analytics under Acquisition --> All Traffic --> Source / Medium


If you really want to specific here you can add your own channel definitions inside Google Analytics, that can capture more types beyond the default definitions, useful for creating channels like "paid social" vs lumping those in with "paid ads"

utm_term - (not recommended for non-search based ads)

Use this for PPC advertising to pass on the keyword searched for. So make the link the keyword or keyword group you are targeting. Everything in utm_term shows up in Google Analyics Keywords report so if you write something weird, it will show up as a keyword that people searched for.

Your keyword report might not be that important to you in which case you can use utm_term in non-ppc ad situations to add different types of metadata. Some analytics software will use this term to enable more advanced tracking of Facebook Ads & other marketing channels.

utm_content - not commonly used

Utm_content is used for other general tagging & is not required for most ad tracking uses. However it can be very useful in certain situations.

The main use case is A/B testing - so if everything else is the same e.g. utm_campaign=january_sale_retarget
utm_source=newsletter
utm_medium=email
But maybe you still have two different ad creatives, one funny and one serious, for the email. Then you use utm_content like so to differentiate them:
utm_content=january_sale_funny in one
utm_content=january_sale_serious in the other
Then you’ll be able to track which of those 2 variants of the same campaign generated more traffic & sales.

A great way to make your own UTM links is to use the Google Analytics Campaign URL builder which walks you through each of these fields and then gives you a ready-to-use link at the end.

Things To Watch Out For

So as you can see utm tags are fairly simple to understand but there are still a few ways they can trip you up if you are not careful.

  • Tags are case sensitive - this is important because consistency is important. For example, if you want to know how e-mail marketing is performing, you will want to see the aggregate of all the traffic & sales you received from utm_medium=email. But if you used Email or e-mail in some tags instead of email, you'll have 2 or 3 different categories in your report.
  • Don't use UTM tags internally on your site - you want these tags to track your marketing right? So don't put them on your blog or on various buttons on your site, unless you are very sure about what you are doing.
  • Beware of special charactes - Don't use ? or & in your tags, and be careful using other special characters as well. We recommend you stick to a-z and 0-9 only, and use only lowercase.
  • Character Count - There's technically no character count on your UTM tags but that doesn't mean you should go overboard and write a novel. There's a 2000 character limit for URLs (in some browsers) and that could trip you up.
  • Tag Reuse - Make sure you use unique tags for each marketing effort. It's easier than you might think over the years to re-use the same set of tags for a new campaign - we recommend adding a date to each one incase your januarysale from 2017 overlaps with your januarysale from 2018!

How To Track Influencer Marketing using UTM Tags

Good news! You can track your influencer marketing efforts, and measure the results in your customer journeys and top conversion paths.

You just need to learn how to use UTM tags in non-traditional situations.

The Instagram, Twitter, Blog & Facebook links that your influencers use must contain specific UTM tags.

We recommend the following setup for Influencer spend:
utm_campaign is where you should put the most critical information including the name of the influencer and the type of product they were promoting in each specific post (if there are many).

Go for a verbose & human-readable tag if possible e.g. utm_campaign=beyonce_instagram_yellow_blazer_jan2019
Then you can understand how each post performed with a glance at your analytics - including which influencer, and what product you were promotiong.
Additionally you should use
utm_medium=social and
utm_source=instagram

All together, that means the complete link you provide your influencer needs to be:
http://www.yourwebsite.com/products/yellow-blazer?utm_campaign=beyonce_instagram_yellow_blazer_jan2019&utm_source=instagram&utm_medium=social

It's best to plan out in advance each link & utm tags you want to provide your influencers, especially if you have multiple influencer campaigns across multiple channels like YouTube and Instagram & blogs. A good way to do this is to keep track of them in Excel/Google Sheets.

Tricks To Get The Most Out Of UTM Tags

  • It’s very important to use a consistent method of tagging. This becomes more valuable ver a long period of time so that your various campaigns can be compared accurately. The best method to do this is to pre-define the tag structure you want to have for every link.
  • Did you know you can add utm tags to your 301 redirects? If you have any, add the utm tags to the redirects in your htaccess file & you’ll know how long the old links are up for and how often they are clicked.
  • Try using a link shortener tool like bit.ly or Rebrandly to make a more simple URL. This makes sense especially when your target customer can see the link text directly e.g. in Instagram profiles or Print ads. For ads in your email marketing & Adwords, the link URL won't be immediately visible with all the UTM tags so you don't need to worry so much.
  • Finally - we recommend tagging everything all the time! You’ve seen how you can better tag and track influencer marketing, and you can track much more! Add utm tags to any othermarketing links you might have forgotten, e.g. your email signature link, build them into QR codes, you can even tag your print ads if you use a link shortener to make a memorable shortlink.

How To Dynamically Add UTM Tags Your Facebook Ads

Facebook provides a method for you to add Facebook dynamic tagging into your links UTM guide. This means you can set up all your Facebook ads to all follow a tagging scheme, without you having to create individual UTM links yourself. Facebook's ad software will automatically add UTM tags to your links based on your campaigns and adverts names.

Facebook offers the following parameters that you can choose from to input in your links' UTM tags. You enter these for each Ad as you make the ad - you can't go back and add the tags after you've made the ad.

  • ad_id={{ad.id}}
  • adset_id={{adset.id}}
  • campaign_id={{campaign.id}}
  • ad_name={{ad.name}}
  • adset_name={{adset.name}}
  • campaign_name={{campaign.name}}

At the Ad level in Facebook Ads, click "Build a URL Parameter" under Website URL. It's a small link under the text field. This pops up the URL Parameter builder.

This is where you can tell Facebook to generate UTM links that auto-insert your Ad Name & Ad Campaign into the tags. Just add the parameters in curly brackers that you want in each field like this
utm_campaign={{campaign.name}} utm_content={{ad.name}} and the link will be generated correctly.

As of end of 2018 I think you still need to add these paramters in the URL for each ad you create. I am not sure that you can set it up so that every ad will have the UTM tags dynamically generated. If you find a way to do that, let us know!

How OrderMetrics uses UTM Tags To Track Facebook Ads

We can match your Facebook ads to your orders in your Shopify, WooCommerce or BigCommerce stores. This will allow you to see how much profit you made off your individual Facebook ads (versus standard OrderMetrics showing profit after total Facebook spend only)

We need to add some info to your UTM tags used in your Facebook ads to do this.

This allows you to know how much profit you made from each sale that came from a Facebook ad, after the individual cost of that Facebook ad campaign is accounted for.

  • We only tag new ads that you make after enabling auto-tagging inside OrderMetrics
  • There’s no way we can tag & track historical ads before you enable auto-tagging.

The way it works is, we append a certain extra ID number on each ad you create after enabling auto tagging.

We add this tag to the utm_term as it’s the least consequential of the 3 options we have (utm_source, utm_medium & utm_term).

If you already use some form of utm_term tagging on your Facebook ads - we append our tag to the end of your tag. This is designed to minimize the effect for your own reporting, you will still have all the other details you wrote. E.g. utm_term=YOUR_TAG|OM_14059430

Note that many other analytics software overwrites your entire tag, our appending solution is the most considerate way to perform this tagging available to us presently.

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